Family Matters
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?s about being a potential guardian

My husbands sister has 2 little ones under 2 now, and her and her husband are updating their will and asked if they could name H and I as guardians in the case that something happens to them.  I know that it's extremely unlikely, but I was wondering if there are some questions or things that we should discuss with them first before agreeing?  The 2 things that come to mind would be if they are planning to set up some kind of trust or something for the children to help pay for college etc.  I would also like to know if there are certain things that are important to them, like participating in a certain religion and tradition, which they would want us to continue with the children even if our original family didn't do them.  SIL and her family live in another city and we only see them 1-2 times a year so we won't know the children/traditions etc too well.  I was wondering if anyone knew some good or standard things to discuss with them before agreeing?  Or if usually people just say yes and hope for the best?

Re: ?s about being a potential guardian

  • I would discuss any religious or family traditions, education (would they want them in a private school? a religious school? would money be left for that?), are they raising the children vegan or vegetarian, etc. - although on the off chance something happens, the kids might be old enough to want their own say in that stuff anyway. To me the most important thing would be knowing that BIL's parents were not going to flip out if you actually end up with the children. I would want to know that they know the situation, and what do they expect? Will you be expected to fly or drive for hours or days every other holiday? I know it sounds crazy, but a custody battle with people you don't know over kids you barely see is crazier.
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  • I think both your questions are valid. This isn't an emergency where you are being called to immediate action. Given that they are planning enough to write wills, it's fair enough to ask if they are planning insurance policies to pay for college and extra expenses - and what, if any expectations the parents have for religion, education and visiting extended family. And if someone other than you two would be in charge of approving/distributing the money/estate.
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  • I think those are both fair questions.

    My sister is my guardian, and she didn't ask anything, but she lives 10 minutes away from me so she knows the answer.  Well, she doesn't know about the money / insurance we have set aside, but she knows dh has life insurance through work and that our estate (ie the house and some other assets) should be enough to pay for the kids upbringing.

    I would not be offended by either of those questions.  IMO, it is smart to ask, and it shows you care. 

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  • I would not be offended at all if you asked any of the above questions, to me it would show that you care and that you want what is best for the children, and to pass on family traditions from there parents.

    If they do not have a plan to pay for the kids college and stuff like that then you will want to make sure you ask them how they would cover that sort of thing. They may of may not be even thinking of that. (As they seem really prepared they probably have thought of it, but just in case). You do not want to have to end up paying for it if anything happens to them.

     If you live so far away from the kids now you may also want to figure out where they would "expect" you to raise the children. Would they want you to move into their house and raise their children so that you are closer to their grandparents? What would you be doing for holidays? Birthdays?

    There is a lot to think about when agreeing to being guardian of someone else's children, especially young ones.

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  • When I was a guardian, I wanted to know the details of access to other family members. This can be a contentous issue since the grandparents and other aunts/uncles may have been given or will fight for access. One set of kids for whom I was guardian had this spelled out- how much and when grandparents would see the kids and who would pay the travel expenses associated.

    The other piece are the financials. Is there a trustee to manage the estate? Are there conditions associated with using the funds? The other kids I was guardian for came with a significant sum of money. Some of that money was earmarked for me to cover a larger home and childcare. I had complete discretion as to making medical and educational decisions, but funding went through the estates trustee to provide a level of transparency.

  • I think these are excellent things to ask because this is a HUGE thing they are asking of you.  Yes, hopefully it will never be an issue, but... it does happen and you need to go in as prepared as you can.

    If they did ask you to raise the kids in a religion that you don't follow, well... would you really be up to that task?  That would be truly a huge commitment to take on - would you really be up to it?  THese are things you need to know so that you can decide if you want to actually say "yes" to being a guardian. 

     

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  • You also need to consider how you'll pay for the daily costs related to raising a child - daycare or after school care, extracurricular activities, are you in a good school district?  Would they want to send them to private school? 
  • image -auntie-:

    When I was a guardian, I wanted to know the details of access to other family members. This can be a contentous issue since the grandparents and other aunts/uncles may have been given or will fight for access. One set of kids for whom I was guardian had this spelled out- how much and when grandparents would see the kids and who would pay the travel expenses associated.

    The other piece are the financials. Is there a trustee to manage the estate? Are there conditions associated with using the funds? The other kids I was guardian for came with a significant sum of money. Some of that money was earmarked for me to cover a larger home and childcare. I had complete discretion as to making medical and educational decisions, but funding went through the estates trustee to provide a level of transparency.

    I think money is definitely a big issue to discuss.  We haven't done ours yet (we're terrible), but we'd set up a trust with our estate to have a certain amount of money given to the guardians every year to pay for certain things (like bigger housing, etc).  The first portion of our estate would go into college funds to take care of that.     So, I'd certainly want to know whether they have life insurance, and what they are doing with distribution of assets of the estate or whether you'd be responsible for the financial aspet of raising two additional children.

  • In addition to the other replies, I also think having a basic understanding of the children's medical needs would be something good to have. Is one child seriously allergic to peanuts/shellfish/bees/etc? Is one of them lactose intolerant? That sort of thing...

    ...or at least ask that they keep the children's updated medical information with the legal paperwork.

    Whatever you do, don't just "say yes and hope for the best." That's sort of like not having life insurance because you just don't want to think about it. It's a big responsibility, even though it's likely you'll never have to act in that role (hopefully!). IMO, it'd be worthwhile for you and your husband to sit down with your SIL and her husband and talk through things - just make sure to write it down and keep it in a safe place. If you look around online I'm sure there are probably some fillable forms that could guide you in collecting the information you might want to have available should the need arise.

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  • You had some good initial questions and PPs did a good job adding more.  Just a couple of other things that came up when we were doing our will and asked SIL to take DS should anything happen to us:

     1. Because she lives out of state, she asked that she and DS be able to skype regularly.  That way, if something happens to us, he won't be going to a stranger he only sees at Christmas time.

     2.  I'd ask for a copy of the paperwork.  Many people keep their wills in a safe deposit box, not realizing that banks will not allow anyone else to open it until AFTER the estate has been settled and ownership has been established.  Which means the instructions for doing so are locked up.  Our lawyer warned us that this is a much bigger problem than most people realize.

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